Background Information on the ELORS Screening Tool
Background Information on the ELORS Screening Tool

Excerpt from the ELORS Development Manual by Margaret Gillis, Ph.D., Tracey West, Ph.D., and Mary Ruth Coleman, Ph.D.

The development of the Early Learning and Observation Rating Scale (ELORS) began with establishing a theoretical base for looking at early indications of learning disabilities and moved through the creation of the observation tools (whole class, teacher, and the parent versions). An Advisory Team of individuals with expertise in early childhood education, child development, language acquisition, and learning disabilities worked with the authors throughout the development process.

ELORS was developed through a series of stages:

  1. Establishment of the Theoretical Foundation and Validity
    A review of research literature on early signs of learning difficulties and learning disabilities in young children (ages 3-5) was conducted. A review of existing instruments and assessments used with preschool-age children was completed to determine whether there was an existing instrument with the same structure and purpose as the ELORS and to validate the domains to be included in the instrument. An advisory team, consisting of individuals with expertise in early childhood and learning disabilities, was created for the initial planning of the tool.
  2. Determination of the Domains to be Included
    Through these reviews and the expertise of the advisory team, a list of major domains was identified for inclusion in the ELORS. The domains represent the areas identified by the literature review as well as domains included in instruments with similar purposes. These domains were then defined, compared to domains included in existing measures, and were further reviewed by both the advisory team and independent experts. The ELORS was also submitted to a bias panel to determine the acceptability of the instrument and the items to people of diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
  3. Development of the Observational Indicators for each Domain
    Through the numerous revisions, a pilot version of the ELORS containing 143 items was developed. These items are those that were kept from the initial pool generated by the advisory team and then refined and clarified based on the expert and bias panel reviews. The items included are organized around seven domains of learning. Items in the domains represent behaviors and skills that comprise areas in which a child may exhibit difficulty.
  4. Review for Face and Social Validity
    An initial pilot study was conducted to gather information on the social validity of the instrument to determine the extent to which it was considered acceptable, relevant, feasible, and useful to teachers and parents of pre-kindergarten children.
  5. Study for Construct Validity and Item Reduction Process
    The initial ELORS contained approximately two times the number of items planned for the final version. To make the ELORS more practical as a tool for teachers and parents these items needed to be reduced to ensure that the final version of the instrument contains the items that are the best indicators of areas of concern. A validation study designed to support the item reduction process was completed.
  6. Future Studies for Additional Validity and Reliability
    Further research is necessary to establish the reliability of the ELORS across time and across raters. Although theoretical and social validity are areas of strength, additional studies looking at how the ELORS fits with other measures are needed to establish concurrent validity.

For more detailed information about the development of the ELORS screening tool, download the ELORS Development Manual (PDF).

About the Authors

Margaret Gillis, Ph.D., is a visiting instructor in Human Development and Family Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She previously worked as a member of the Recognition and Response team at the FPG Child Development Institute and the Developmental Pathways team at Harvard University. Margaret completed her master’s degree in Childhood Risk and Prevention at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and her doctoral degree in Early Childhood Special Education and Literacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has worked with children birth through kindergarten with and without disabilities and has a large role mentoring student teachers. Margaret’s research interests focus on early childhood professional development and early intervention.

Tracey West, Ph.D., is a research specialist at the FPG Child Development Institute at The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. She is coordinator of the National Professional Development Center on Inclusion (NPDCI) and previously worked as a member of the Recognition and Response team at FPG. Tracey completed her graduate studies at the University of North Carolina with a master’s degree in Early Intervention and Family Support and a doctoral degree in Early Childhood, Families and Literacy. She has taught children from birth through age 5 with and without disabilities and worked with families of young children in a range of settings. Tracey’s interests focus on the areas of inclusion and early childhood.

Mary Ruth Coleman, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist at the FPG Child Development Institute at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Research Associate Professor in the School of Education. She directed Project U-STARS~PLUS (Using Science, Talents and Abilities to Recognize Students – Promoting Learning in Under-served Students), and project ACCESS (Achievement in Content and Curriculum for Every Student’s Success). She was the Co-Principal Investigator for the Early Learning Disabilities Initiative sponsored by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation. Dr. Coleman has numerous publications including the 12th Edition of the seminal textbook, Teaching Exceptional Children by Samuel A. Kirk, James J. Gallagher, Mary Ruth Coleman, and Nicholas J. Anastasiow (2008). She has served three terms (9 years) on the Board of Directors for the Association for Gifted (TAG), one of which she was President; three terms (9 years) on the Board of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC); and two terms (6 years) on the Board of Directors for the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). She was president of the Council in 2007.

Suggested Tip!

Be Ready for Reading

Bring a book to your child’s next doctor’s appointment to ease the wait.  And, leave a book where you keep your reusable shopping bags to make the shopping cart a rolling reading room